Rebels living in England have claimed the UK Government waived travel bans to let them fight Colonel Gaddafi in Libya as investigators probe the Manchester bomber’s visits to Tripoli.
Fighters which included Libyan exiles and British-Libyan residents have described how MI5 operated an open door policy for those willing to travel to North Africa to topple the dictator. It comes as Home Secretary Amber Rudd admitted Salman Abedi, who killed 22 and injured at least 119 people when he blew himself up at Manchester Arena, was known to counter-terror authorities. Those who traveled to Libya to fight alongside Islamic rebel groups have described how, even though they were subject to counter-terror orders banning them from leaving their homes because they posed a security threat, they were allowed to travel to the hostile warzone.
When they returned to the UK, having spent months alongside groups thought by British intelligence to have links with Al-Qaeda, rebels were said to have been allowed back into the country without hesitation.
Libyan officials have backed up the claims, saying the British government were ‘fully aware’ of young men being sent to fight, turning the North African country into an ‘exporter of terror’.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (left) and Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli Thursday March 25, 2004. The dictator warned the former Labour leader that if he was removed from power Islamic extremists would take over Libya with the ultimate goal of conquering Europe.
Newly released transcripts of 2011 phone calls between the pair reveal the ousted Libyan leader’s anxieties about the growing influence Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were having in Africa and the Middle East.
He warned jihadis were already wreaking havoc in the North African state despite his governance – and that if he was to be toppled it would pave the way for the rise of an Islamic State that would open the doors to a deluge of migrants heading for mainland Europe.
Blair contacted the dictator and urged him to flee for a ‘safe place’ in two calls on February 25 2011, eight months before he was beaten to death after being found in a sewer.
Transcripts of the conversations were published for the first time yesterday and MPs said the dictator’s fears extremists would take Libya may have been ‘wrongly ignored’ because he was usually ‘delusional’.
However, hindsight appears to prove the former dictator foretold the rise of ISIS – and the knock-on effect it would have on displacing the Libyan people and millions more across Iraq and Syria.